By David Buchanan, Slow Food Portland, ME
Last week I picked a perfectly ripe strawberry in the front yard, brought it into the kitchen and laid it on the table. Didn’t seem right to eat it, not yet. After an unsuccessful attempt to take close-up photographs without a tripod, I cut it in two and laid it on a plate. Carried it around for a while. Nice looking berry.
This is a Marshall, a variety described by Slow Food USA and the RAFT alliance in 2004 as one of the top ten endangered foods in the country. According to the first RAFT publication, it was once known as “the finest eating strawberry in America”: “exceedingly handsome, splendidly flavored, pleasantly sprightly, aromatic and juicy”. Who could resist that? I had to taste one.
But how do you find and grow a nearly extinct berry? According to RAFT, “the only hint of this remarkable strawberry exists at the USDA’s Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, Oregon in the form of a single clone”. No one carries it commercially. In fact the only other known source is the Bainbridge Island Historical Society in Washington State, and its plants haven’t been verified through genetic testing.